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WSU vs. Stanford: Preview and open game thread

Can the Cougs pull off the upset of the No. 5 team in the nation? Come talk about the game as it unfolds with other WSU fans.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

FROM SEATTLE -- The 3-1 WSU Cougars are attempting to secure their biggest win in years as they take on the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal at CenturyLink Field for the annual Seattle Game at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

If they're going to do it, they'll have to do it in what are less than ideal conditions: In front of a smallish crowd with rain and wind that figure to affect them a lot more than it affects the run-heavy Cardinal. The word around the press box here is that less than 40,000 tickets had been sold prior to tonight's walk-up, which figures to be minimal given the weather.

And the weather is as bad as it's been made out to be. I'm not sure I've driven through the kind of biblical downpour I endured on my way north through Kent on WA-167. There was standing water on the road, and at one point my little car was trying to make like Miss Budweiser. Here's to hoping that system is moving south, and not north, since it's still wet here, but not overly ridiculous.

It's going to be fascinating to see how WSU copes with the weather. Mike Leach does what he does, but you have to think that shorter throws -- including lots of screens -- become a heavier part of the game plan if the wind picks up too much. Of course, that plays right into what Stanford likes to try and stop with its man-heavy defense.

It also will be interesting to see how it affects Stanford. Yes, the Cardinal should theoretically have an easier time moving the ball, since their offensive attack generally moves the ball on the ground. But the weather won't necessarily make it easier for them to run, and you might even see WSU load up the box, knowing the Cardinal like to try and hit play action downfield, and downfield throws will theoretically be difficult to complete.

Although the crowd will be a lot smaller than in years past, it figures to be enthusiastic, given that attendees likely have lubed themselves up to insulate from the cold and wouldn't be here if they weren't pretty committed to having a good time at the game. If the Cougs can keep it close, even a crowd of 40,000 will be loud in this place, just because this place is loud.

The key for WSU, I think, is to prevent big plays -- especially in terms of getting gashed on the ground. WSU is going to have a hard time scoring more than three touchdowns in these conditions and against this defense -- maintaining contact is going to be critical. Tackling will truly be at a premium.

We'll be back at halftime with an update. In the meantime, discuss away!

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